Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
I went to the Body Worlds exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center today. If you’ve not heard of this, it’s an exhibit of preserved human bodies formed into shapes to best demonstrate the human anatomy.
The human bodies are without skin, so that the muscle, bone, tendons, organs show. Believe me when I say that there is nothing at all gross about the exhibit. On the contrary, it was all rather fascinating. Our bodies are incredibly sophisticated machines, and the exhibits were a celebration of our wonderful sophistication.
In addition to the staged human bodies, the show also featured cross sections and preserved organs, both diseased and healthy. Another interesting type of display was the vein work sculptures, displaying only the veins.
What was terrible, though, is that I had the strongest craving for beef jerky during the show. I confessed my hunger to my roommate, and he said that he had the same craving. As we were leaving, we could hear the people behind us, debating where to go to lunch because they were starved.
There was something very Freudian about all of this.
I gather there was or is a 20/20 investigation of Body Worlds, especially about where the bodies originated. According to the information I know, the bodies used in the displays at the Body Worlds in St. Louis were all donated at the behest of the individuals, and with permission of the individual families.
As for whether the show was purely entertainment, most of the show is devoted to a closer look at organs, including those diseased, as compared to healthy. Displays of lungs damaged by smoking, livers damaged by drinking, and one cross section display of an obese man with diagrams detailing of the damage to his body based on his weight–including a cross section of the pacemaker he wore–were juxtaposed with bodies seemingly in the peak of health and vitality.
Was the work educational?
One elderly woman wearing a camel colored coat, and a hat with a little feather was talking with three kids who part of a school tour group. Their discussion was occurring over an exhibit of hip bones, including one demonstrating a hip replacement. Evidently, the kids had been at the display, looking at the hip replacement when the lady heard them talking. She started telling them about her own hip replacement, her mobility before and after, answering their questions. The small group of four were so intent, they were completely unaware of the kids’ chaperons, patiently waiting for them to finish so they could move on.
Was the work art? Art is, as always, in the eye of the beholder.